Promises Made, Promises Kept
They were brothers before they became legends. Five times Tobirama protected his brother, and one time he didn't have to.
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Kishimoto.
Tobirama was moving as soon as his father's hand twitched, but he was still too slow. There was a dull crack and Hashirama staggered back with a cry, one hand going to his bruised cheek. Their father glared at him, but Tobirama was already between them.
He had to fight the urge to flinch as Butsuma's furious gaze turned on him. "Get out of the way, Tobirama."
Tobirama swallowed, but stood his ground. "No."
Gimlet eyes narrowed. "Are you disobeying me too?" His hands once again clenched into fists.
"No, otousan," Tobirama said quickly. "But neither did Hashirama."
"He questioned me."
"You raised us to ask questions."
"Watch your mouth, boy," Butsuma growled. Tobirama tensed, but the expected blow never came. Butsuma's eyes returned to his eldest.
"You will participate tomorrow," he said quietly.
It was not a request. Hashirama's jaw tightened but, to Tobirama's relief, he dropped his gaze. "Yes, otousan."
Butsuma grunted and turned to Tobirama. "The next time you speak to me in such a manner, you will be wishing for someone to intervene for you."
Tobirama just nodding, not quite trusting himself to speak. Butsuma glared at the pair of them for a moment longer, then disappeared in a swirl of leaves.
As soon as he was gone, Tobirama turned to Hashirama.
"Are you all right, anija?"
Hashirama did not even seem to hear him. He stood staring after their father, his face a mask of misery. "Why does he never listen?"
Tobirama shrugged. "He won't change. And you need to stop provoking him."
"But he's wrong! All of this is wrong."
"I'm not arguing with you, but you need to be careful. He's getting more and more impatient."
"Because we're losing too many," Hashirama whispered. He squatted on the floor, arms wrapped tightly around his knees. "He's going to get everyone killed."
Tobirama sighed and crouched opposite him. "I know, but confronting him like this isn't helping." He looked pointedly at the rapidly purpling bruise on his brother's face. "Keep this up, and he could really hurt you."
"What am I supposed to do?" Hashirama demanded. "Everyone knows this can't continue; I'm just the only one willing to speak out."
"I'm not saying you should stand down," said Tobirama. "But this way isn't working."
"Have you got any better ideas?"
Hashirama looked up. "You do?"
Tobirama nodded. "Why is he ignoring you at the moment?"
"Because I'm young. My lack of experience is a liability." His eyes narrowed. "I need to prove myself."
"He'll be a lot more likely to listen then," Tobirama agreed. "We'll also need allies."
Hashirama nodded, his sharp mind already drawing up plans. "I'll start feeling out the older shinobi after the mission tomorrow; they'll be inclined to listen after they've been fighting. You and Itama start asking around here." He grinned. "Thanks, Tobi."
Tobirama shrugged. "That's my job, isn't it? Keeping you out of trouble."
Hashirama flicked his ear. "I don't need looking after." His grin faded. "You can't keep upsetting him either."
Tobirama suppressed a shudder at the thought, but he kept his voice even with the ease of long practice. "All the more reason to try it this way."
Hashirama nodded, but his dark eyes remained fixed on Tobirama's until the younger Senju had to fight the urge to fidget. "Promise me you'll be careful, all right?"
Tobirama didn't reply. He didn't know the answer.
Tobirama gave him a small smile. "I'll do my best. Come on, let's find Itama."
Hashirama's eyes narrowed, but Tobirama dated away before he had a chance to ask questions. That was one promise he was not so sure he would be able to keep.
Tobirama was young. He lacked his father's experience, and his brother's vision. He had yet to come into his own strength But he wasn't a fool, and there was one thing he had absolutely sure of. Hashirama had to live. He had to grow up, he had to make a better future. A future where children were not sent out to die. Tobirama knew he could do it, if he only survived long enough.
Tobirama wanted to see that future. But more importantly, he wanted his brother to be safe.
Hashirama had long ago promised to protect him. He never knew that Tobirama had made exactly the same vow. No matter what the cost might be.
There were cries of fury from the Uchiha as their Katon jutsu evaporated harmlessly against the barrier, but Tobirama was already forming the next set of seals.
His clan took full advantage of the resulting devastation, and Tobirama took the opportunity to catch his breath. His chakra reserves were formidable but they had been fighting for some time, and even he was starting to feel the strain. He pushed the weariness aside and scanned the battlefield, senses automatically reaching out for one particular person.
Hashirama was not difficult to find. He never was. Even without his unique Mokuton, his chakra blazed brightly enough to eclipse everyone else for miles around. Tobirama felt his lips twitch into a smile. He would never tire of watching his brother fight. For all his compassion and love of peace, Hashirama was a true shinobi, and nigh on unstoppable when fighting for the people precious to him. In this state, there was maybe one other person who could match him.
Speaking of which... Tobirama's eyes narrowed as he felt the ominous flicker of Madara's chakra working its way towards Hashirama's position. Tobirama started running immediately; Hashirama might be the strongest shinobi on the field, but Tobirama knew that he still regarded Madara with friendship, even if the feeling was no longer reciprocated. With that in mind, Tobirama had no intention of leaving the two of them alone.
His senses suddenly screamed at him, and only a hurried twist to the side saved him from a blast of Raiton chakra. Tobirama shook himself; he couldn't afford to be distracted like a first-time cadet. He glared at his charging opponent and began to form his own hand seals. Hashirama would just have to keep himself out of trouble for a few minutes.
Of course, being Hashirama, that was too much to ask. Tobirama had barely had time to handle his own attacker before a familiar flare of chakra made him spin round. His eyes widened, and he let out a curse.
Madara had reached Tobirama, and the two of them were involved in what seemed to be a heated argument, judging from Hashirama's increasingly violent gesticulations. Tobirama would have been amused by the sight, who else would start debating in the middle of a battle, if it weren't for the sight of Uchiha Izuna approaching Hashirama from behind.
Tobirama's mind raced. Izuna wasn't in Hashirama and Madara's league, but he was a formidable shinobi, especially with the Mangekyō Sharingan. Tobirama had faced that particular dōjutsu too many times to have anything other than a very healthy respect for it, and Hashirama, his attention completely on his former friend, clearly hadn't noticed a thing. Even as he opened his mouth to shout a warning, Izuna's hands began to move, and Tobirama had no choice but to act.
Time seemed to stop. Crimson and black eyes locked with his, even as his blade tore through flesh and bone and the world went red.
Tobirama landed and whirled round, katana raised, but there was no need. Madara cradled his brother's bleeding body close to him, tears streaming down his blood-stained cheeks.
"Izuna!" He looked up, and the surge of killing intent made Tobirama take a step back. He was dimly aware of Hashirama and Madara speaking, but all he could do was stand there, too overwhelmed with horror to move. Part of him wondered why; Izuna was an enemy shinobi, a known threat who had been on the verge of attacking Hashirama. The response had been justified.
But reasoning paled to nothing beside the terror and the hatred in Madara's eyes. He wasn't even aware that the battle was over, and the Uchiha gone until Hashirama spoke.
"Was that really necessary?"
Tobirama blinked and shook his head. "I'm sorry?"
Guilt was clearly etched in Hashirama's ashen face. "Did you have to kill him?"
Tobirama took a deep breath, forcing his raging emotions back under his control. This was not the time. "If I hadn't, he would have killed you."
Hashirama's eyes widened momentarily before darkening. "I don't need protecting, Tobirama. Madara will never forgive us for this."
"Maybe not," said Tobirama quietly. "But at least you'll get the chance to ask him."
Hashirama shot him a final, disappointed look before stalking off to deal with the wounded. Tobirama sighed and tilted his head back, letting rain mingle with blood and sweat. It was over. Hashirama was safe. Even if he was angry, and Madara was homicidal, and all the Uchiha would now be out for his blood...
Why was he even surprised? No one ever said this would be easy.
"Doton: Retsudo Tenshō!"
Tobirama sprang sideways as the ground collapsed in on itself beneath him, right into the path of a flurry of shuriken. He twisted to dodge them and landed easily, only to immediately have to block a blurringly fast series of kicks and punches. Tobirama allowed himself a slight smile. This was an improvement. He ducked under the last blow and caught his opponent's wrist. He shifted his weight and pushed, sending her crashing to the floor.
His earlier assailants chose that moment to break cover. Tobirama's smile widened, and he was gratified to see their eyes widen as he ran through a quick series of hand seals.
There were twin yelps as the wave sent them flying through the air. Both regained their feet in an instant, but paused when Tobirama raised his hand.
"All right, that's enough."
All three relaxed immediately, and he continued. "Hiruzen, good choice, but you need to be faster with your seals. Homura, remember to use genjutsu to further disguise your attacks. Koharu, you speed has improved, now you need to work on varying your patterns of attack."
Koharu blew her fringe out of her eyes and nodded. "Yes, sensei."
Homura slumped down on the grass. "I thought that would work."
Tobirama smiled and ruffled his hair. "It was a perfectly good strategy. You just need to work on you execution."
"We will beat you one day, sensei," Hiruzen promised.
"I have no doubt of that."
All three brightened visibly at his words. Tobirama tilted his head up.
"Did we put on a good show?"
There was a light sigh. "I'll never be able to sneak up on you, will I?"
"If it's any consolation, neither has your father." He didn't bat an eyelid as a dark-haired kunoichi dropped to the ground in front of him.
"Yep, that does make me feel better." She nodded to the genin, all of whom bowed. "They're getting good."
Tobirama nodded. "I know they are." He watched with amusement as they all blushed at the praise.
"Thanks sensei, Kuraya-hime."
Kuraya laughed. "It's only the truth."
"How is Tsunade-hime?" asked Hiruzen.
Tobirama's smile widened. Hiruzen had been fascinated by the toddler when he first met her, and he still took a keen interest in her progress. However, his amusement disappeared completely at Kuraya's reply.
"She's doing very well. Otousan is keeping an eye on her for me for a bit." She blinked. "And I'm going to be late for meeting kaachan." She smiled at the genin, gave Tobirama a quick peck on the cheek, and disappeared.
As soon as he was sure his niece was gone, Tobirama turned to his students.
"The three of you will need to train by yourselves for the rest of the afternoon."
"We can do that, sensei," said Koharu. "Is something wrong?"
"Not exactly. There is a situation I need to attend to."
"We'll be fine, sensei," Hiruzen assured him.
Tobirama smiled. "Good. I will return as soon as I can."
Less than a minute later, he was hammering on his brother's door.
"Hashirama? Are you in there?"
The door swung open and Hashirama stood there, his face a mask of concern. "Tobirama? Is-"
"Where is she?" Tobirama interrupted.
"Tsunade's through there, but Tobi – Hey!"
Tobirama ignored him, choosing instead to push past to the next room. At the door, he paused as an excited shriek rang through the air.
Tobirama smiled and gathered up the small blonde whirlwind that threw herself into his arms, but his eyes darkened as he saw what lay scattered on the floor.
"Hashirama," he said quietly. "What happened the last time you entertained her with card games?"
Hashirama rubbed the back of his neck. "I know, but she wanted to play."
"Play!" Enormous brown eyes turned to him. "Games are fun."
Hashirama's face split into a goofy grin, but Tobirama just patted her on the head. "Yes, but there are more fun things than those games. Why don't we help you with your katas?"
Hashirama frowned. "I don't think she'll want-"
"Yeah! Learn to fight like you!"
Tobirama raised an eyebrow. "You were saying?"
Hashirama mumbled something unintelligible under his breath, but Tobirama's attention was diverted by Tsunade tugging on his hair.
"Oji teach me?"
Tobirama smiled and hugged her closer. "Of course."
Everyone needed a break now and then. And at least Kuraya wouldn't have to try to kill them for corrupting her daughter. Again.
Tobirama dropped to his knees, head and heart pounding with exhaustion. What had been intended as a relaxing day away from the village for him and his brother had rapidly degenerated into a fight for their lives when they were ambushed by rogue shinobi. Tobirama closed his eyes as the world spun before him; while their attackers hadn't been at his level, let alone Hashirama's, their sheer numbers had made the battle a difficult one. They had triumphed, but it had been a little too close for comfort.
Tobirama raised his head at his brother's voice. "I'm fine." The dark was gathering, making it difficult to identify individuals. "Hashirama?"
There was a pause before a reply came. "Tobi, I may need a hand."
Hashirama hated asking for help. Tobirama immediately pulled himself to his feet, heedless of his screaming muscles. "Are you hurt?"
Tobirama adjusted his course slightly, and a minute later, Hashirama's familiar form came into view. He couldn't see any injuries, but relief turned to confusion as his brother continued to stare out into the forest.
"Hashirama?" He knelt next to him, automatically reaching out with his chakra. ""What do you mean? What's wrong?"
Hashirama drew in a long, measured breath. "Tobi, I can't see."
Tobirama froze. This couldn't be happening. But there was no mistaking the undercurrent of fear in his brother's voice.
"You're sure it's not a genjutsu?"
"If it is, I can't break it."
There wasn't a genjutsu outside Tsukuyomi that Hashirama couldn't dispel. Tobirama grimaced; he wasn't a medic-nin, and he couldn't risk doing any further damage. "We need to get back to the village."
Hashirama's face clearly betrayed his unease at the idea. Not that Tobirama could blame him; they were several hours from Konoha, and they had already discovered that this was not safe country. Normally, that wouldn't be a problem, but in their current condition...
Tobirama shook that thought away. If they couldn't fight, they would just have to make sure that they didn't have to. He laid a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"I'll get us home," he promised. "They won't be able to ambush us a second time." Even as he spoke, he began to extend his chakra out. They couln't afford to be taken by surprise. Hashirama felt the change, and his eyes narrowed.
"You can't keep that up all the way back; you're more exhausted than I am."
"I can do it." He didn't have a choice. Hashirama, however, had come to a different conclusion.
"You need to leave me here. Go and bring back help."
"Don't be ridiculous," said Tobirama flatly. "Your sensor skills are atrocious at the best of times."
"You'll be faster alone."
"It's not happening." Hashirama pouted, but a distant flare of chakra signalled the end of Tobirama's patience. "Enough of this. We need to move now."
Hashirama bit his lip, but he rose to his feet. Tobirama followed suit, careful to hide the effort it took.
"There are three more about two miles east," he said quietly. "I can lead us around them, but we have to be careful."
Hashirama nodded. "All right."
Tobirama raised an eyebrow. "No more arguments?"
"I'd just be wasting my breath. Besides," he gave a small smile, "I trust you."
The unexpected statement momentarily banished every trace of Tobirama's fatigue, and he smiled back. "All right then. Let's go."
By the time a frantic search party found them, Tobirama had successfully detected and averted eight different enemy patrols. He could also barely put one foot in front of the other. Hashirama, by then able to discern vague shapes as the effects of the jutsu wore off, very nearly insisted on carrying him, much to the escort's amusement and Tobirama's mortification. Arriving back at the village, he then lost no time in confining Tobirama to bed, and lecturing him at great lengths, and with remarkable eloquence, on his recklessness and disobedience.
Tobirama didn't care. He was used to it. And it was worth it.
Hashirama's face was ashen as he took in the devastation all around them.
"I never meant for this to happen."
"Nobody thinks you did," said Tobirama quietly. "They know you didn't have a choice."
Hashirama didn't even seem to hear him. Tobirama sighed. He shouldn't really have expected anything else.
Even by their standards, the battle between his brother and Madara had been cataclysmic. The land had been changed forever, and Konoha had not been left unaffected. Multiple severe shock waves and tremors had wreaked havoc with the newly built homes and businesses. Tobirama and the rest of the shinobi had managed to prevent any loss of life, but the damage had still been extensive, and Hashirama had not taken it at all well. He had driven himself near to exhaustion helping with the repairs before Tobirama was able to find him.
"I should never have let it get out of control."
Tobirama blinked, the whisper jerking him from his own thoughts. "You were fighting a bijuu."
"I still should -"
"Stop it. There was nothing more you could have done."
"Hashirama, there was no other way and you know it. Nobody else could have done anything, and I'm sure I speak for everyone when I say that I would rather have a few wrecked buildings than the entire town razed to the ground." Hashirama frowned, and he ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. "Stop being an idiot."
"I'm not," Hashirama protested. "They're supposed to feel safe here."
Tobirama looked at him. "You just saved them from a madman with a bijuu. I think they feel safe."
"He wasn't a madman," said Hashirama quietly.
Tobirama sighed, but knew better than to say anything. Madara's betrayal certainly wasn't making this situation any easier. He hesitated a moment, then laid a hand on his brother's shoulder.
"Anija, you did what you swore to do. You protected us all." Tobirama was well aware that no one else could have faced Madara with the power of the power of the Kyūbi, let alone triumph. The minor damage they had sustained was a small price to pay.
"I still could have been more careful," Hashirama mumbled, but Tobirama felt him relax a little, and just shrugged in response.
"Well, at least you finally have something to work on."
Hashirama gave him a mock-glare. "I'll see what I can do." A small smile touched his lips, and he bumped his shoulder against Tobirama's. "Thanks, Tobi."
Hashirama's smile widened, but at that moment, a derisive snort sounded behind them. Tobirama turned to see a stocky civilian glaring daggers at them. Or more specifically, at Hashirama. Hashirama, for his part, just looked bemused.
The man's glare hardened. "You've got some nerve coming here after what you did."
Tobirama stepped forwards, allowing his killing intent to spike sharply. "You are talking to your Hokage," he growled.
"Tobirama," Hashirama began, but the civilian snorted again.
"Some Hokage. Look at what he's done!" Hashirama's cheery smile faltered, and the man pressed his advantage. "He said he would protect us, then goes and destroys everything in sight. Do you know how long it's taken to do all this? And now all that effort's been wasted." He spat on the ground. "Of course not, you're too busy with all your big shinobi battles to see-"
He never got the chance to finish. An uncontrollable blaze of killing intent sent him staggering to the floor, and all bravado died in an instant when he looked up to see Tobirama standing over him, his body shaking with barely contained rage.
"He fought that battle to save your life," he said, and felt a surge of vicious satisfaction when the man's face drained of colour. "He fought a demon to protect you." He let his gaze travel round the watching villagers. "He was willing to give his life for you, and you complain about buildings. You disgust me."
There was utter silence. Tobirama stared down at the hapless civilian, not even trying to keep the contempt from his voice.
"You have no right to complain." He took a step closer, and drew a little too much pleasure from the anguished moan that greeted him. "And if I ever hear you speaking about our Hokage like that again, it will be the last time you ever set foot in this village."
"I understand," the man sobbed. "Forgive me, Hokage-sama."
"Of course," Hashirama murmured, but his gaze was locked on Tobirama. "Otōto."
Tobirama drew his chakra back under control and followed his brother through the now silent crowds. Once out of earshot, Hashirama turned to him.
"Was that really necessary?"
"Yes," said Tobirama simply.
Hashirama was silent for a long moment. Then, before Tobirama could even think of moving, he darted forwards and threw his arms around him.
"Thank you," he whispered.
Tobirama allowed himself to smile as he hugged him back. "Any time."
And he meant it.
Tobirama tensed as he picked up yet another flicker of killing intent. He had known all along that these talks were a bad idea; so many shinobi from so many clans was a perfect recipe for disaster. Hashirama, of course, was in his element, but Tobirama had been on full alert right from the start. Already he had detected and eliminated two potential assassins, and there had been rumours of more to come. He set his jaw as he slipped from the room. Time to see if this was one of them.
Tobirama left about as much trace as a shadow as he moved towards the chakra source. He was more preoccupied with reigning in his frustration; Hashirama was perfectly capable of taking care of himself, but he had a bad habit of trusting people on the slightest evidence. Tobirama had long ago taken responsibility for his brother's safety, and had had plenty of experiences to justify it.
He had to admit though, that this one was good. The chakra trace had completely disappeared, making finding him exponentially more difficult. Tobirama prepared himself; someone skilled enough to hide from him was going to be more of a challenge than he had thought.
The attack came without warning, and only a quick substitution saved him a chakra-propelled kunai. Tobirama stuck to the wall, every sense straining, and finally caught the chakra signature. Right beneath him.
Tobirama pushed himself away, just as a torso emerged from the rock wall. There was a low chuckle.
"I could say the same," Tobirama murmured. Not that it made much difference. This shinobi would not live to see another day.
Still, it was not an ideal situation. The effectiveness of his Suiton jutsu was limited in such an enclosed space, and this kekkai genkai complicated matters.
No matter. Without warning, Tobirama launched a kunai of his own at his opponent, but the man just smiled and seemed to melt back into the wall. The kunai hit the wall harmlessly and clattered to the floor. Tobirama turned slowly, his chakra tingling around him, but his enemy's trace was once again too dispersed to detect. Tobirama set his lips. This would require a little more planning. He began to back up.
Only to curse as he found his legs suddenly encased in rock. Tobirama immediately began to form the seals for a Raiton jutsu, but it was too late. More rock surged up, covering his body up to his shoulders. His arms were immobilised, his body trapped. He was helpless.
"I really was expecting more."
Tobirama scowled as the man came back into view. "Don't get complacent. Others will not be caught so easily."
"I imagine not," the shinobi agreed easily. "Especially not your brother."
Tobirama would have snorted had the rock not been crushing him. "You will not stand a chance."
"Oh, I am well aware of that. Good thing I'm not after him, isn't it?"
Tobirama closed his eyes as the message sank in. A trap, but not for Hashirama. Humiliation burned in the pit of his stomach; how could he have been so stupid? He looked up in time to see the man's smile widen.
"Always eliminate the weakest link first," he said cheerfully. He clenched his fist, and Tobirama gritted his teeth as the rock began to compress.
"I suggest...running," he grunted. "Hashirama...will not be pleased."
The man laughed. "Probably not, but I'll be long gone by the time they find you."
Bone began to crack, and Tobirama had to draw on a lifetime of training to keep from making a sound. Black began to creep in at the edges of his vision as breathing, already difficult, became impossible.
Hashirama had always been his weak spot, he reflected ruefully. It was about time someone took advantage of it. Ribs snapped. Kuraya would need to keep an eye on Tsunade if she didn't want her to gamble everything away. Blood filled his mouth as he felt something puncture a lung. He hoped Hashirama would look after Hiruzen; the boy had an incredible amount of potential. Darkness overtook his vision.
Then the crushing pressure ceased as a positive maelstrom of killing intent struck them. Very familiar killing intent, and an even more familiar voice.
"That was a mistake."
There was a smile on Tobirama's face as he finally gave in to the pain.
Tobirama awoke to find himself in bed, his chest swathed in bandages, and every inch of his boy throbbing.
"No need... to shout," he mumbled.
Hashirama's anxious face filled his vision. "Are you all right?"
"Will be." Talking was too painful to go into details, but the pain was momentarily put to one side when Hashirama's eyes darkened. "Anija?"
"You are an idiot."
"I can take care of myself! How many times do I have to say it? But do you listen? No, you just go chasing off after assassins and nearly get yourself killed!"
His strength was fading fast, but Tobirama forced himself to meet his brother's dark eyes. "Had to."
Hashirama's glare softened almost imperceptibly. "What am I going to do with you?"
Tobirama managed a slight smile. "Sorry."
"Please be more careful." The whisper was barely audible.
"I'll try." He bit back a hiss as pain wracked his body, but Hashirama picked up on his discomfort immediately.
"Rest now. You need to heal."
No, he couldn't rest yet. "Anija..."
There was infinite gentleness in Hashirama's reply. "Yes, Tobi?"
Despite his best efforts, Tobirama couldn't stop his eyes from closing. "Stay out of trouble...'til I get back... promise..."
He felt a hand brush across his hair. "I promise."
Hashirama never broke a promise. Finally, Tobirama allowed himself to sleep.
He knew he was going to need it. It wouldn't be long before he was needed again. But that was all right. After all, Hashirama would do the same for him.
I may elaborate on some of these in future stories, but I just wanted to get them down. Any feedback would be very much appreciated.